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Choosing Between a Power Wheelchair and a Mobility Scooter

Power Wheel Chairs and Mobility Scooters

The ‘power wheelchair vs scooter’ debate is never-ending. The two terms are often used interchangeably but the two options are actually quite different. While both types of mobility devices help promote independence for people with disabilities, it can be difficult to choose between them. Keep reading to find out more about how to choose the one that’s right for you.



Power wheelchairs are designed for people with very limited mobility, have weak torso muscles and need additional support sitting upright. In order to do this, the captain’s style seats can be customized with motor-driven stand, tilt, support, and recline features. In contrast, mobility scooter seats are not designed for all day use as they typically provide minimal postural support and cushioning. They usually have simple seats that swivel so people can get on and off easily. Some models have reclining seats or captain’s chairs for additional comfort. Users must be able to walk short distances, stand, and step on/off the scooter independently.



Mobility scooters are equipped with a tiller for steering as opposed to a power wheelchair which is operated using a joystick. Users require good upper body strength and fine motor control to operate the tiller. They also must be able to extend their arms comfortably in front of their body for extended periods to hold the controls. Joystick controls are ideal for people with arm weakness because they can be controlled with the touch of a single finger. The joystick is attached to the armrest so the user’s arm is constantly supported.



Power wheelchairs have a compact design so they can maneuver through tight spaces like narrow hallways. In particular, mid-wheel drive wheelchairs have a zero turn radius which means that they can turn around in their own space. Power wheelchairs allow users to sit at tables and pull up next to the bed or toilet. Mobility scooters have a wide turning radius so they are more suited for grocery stores, malls, airports, and parks. Some buildings and elevators cannot accommodate mobility scooters due to their large size. The handlebars prevent scooters from pulling straight up to desks or tables, so users must stand up and transfer to a chair. Many scooters have lights and turn signals because they are designed to be used in public spaces.


Most power wheelchairs weigh approximately 200 lbs and are impossible for one person to lift. These wheelchairs require a special lift or a specially designed wheelchair van. Thankfully, the lightweight Vive Health Power Wheelchair and Compact Power Wheelchair fold in seconds to fit into most vehicles. Many mobility scooters can be taken apart into 3 or 4 pieces for transport or storage. However, larger heavy-duty scooters with captain’s seats often require a vehicle lift. Drive Medical ZooMe Auto-Flex Folding Travel Scooter is perfect for travel because it weighs only 60 lbs and folds/unfolds in 15 seconds or less with a wireless key fob!


Questions to consider

  1. How often will I need to use it?
  2. Will I use it all day or for short periods of time?
  3. Will I use it at home or for shopping and errands?
  4. Do I have the means to transport it when needed?
  5. Do I have enough arm strength to steer with tiller controls?
  6. Do I have enough trunk strength to sit upright on my own?


Final thoughts

Power wheelchairs and mobility scooters are invaluable devices for people with disabilities. They are available in a wide variety of configurations and sizes to meet the individual needs of each person. Power wheelchairs are designed for people with very limited mobility while scooters are considered to be consumer products for use as needed. Trying to find just the right mobility device can be a challenge so the HomeCare Hospital Beds team of experts is ready to help! For more information, call us today at 877-414-0002 or email us at info@homecarehospitalbeds.com.

**The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. If you are having a severe and sudden change in physical or mental health, please call 911, contact a local emergency facility or consult with your doctor. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider, and never disregard the advice given because of information you have received from our website.**